Tuesday, October 16, 2012

China Provides the Rail Model

China's system of high-speed rail has become the model railroad for United States passenger rail. Over the past ten years, a rail gap opened between China and the United States, with the United States (supposedly) left at the station. Next week's New Yorker magazine fills in the details.

Boss Rail 

by Evan Osnos
The New Yorker
October 22, 2012

On the morning of July 23, 2011, passengers hurried across Beijing South Station at the final call to board bullet train D301, heading south on the world’s largest, fastest, and newest high-speed railway, the Harmony Express. It was bound for Fuzhou, fourteen hundred miles away.

Beijing South Station is shaped like a flying saucer, its silvery vaulted ceiling illuminated by skylights. It contains as much steel as the Empire State Building and can handle two hundred and forty million people a year, thirty per cent more than New York’s Penn Station, the busiest stop in America. When Beijing South opened, in 2008, it was the largest station in Asia; then Shanghai stole the crown. In all, some three hundred new stations have been built or revitalized by China’s Railway Ministry, which has nearly as many employees as the civilian workforce of the United States government.

When the passengers for D301 reached the platform, they encountered a vehicle that looked less like a train than a wingless jet: a tube of aluminum alloy, a quarter of a mile from end to end, containing sixteen carriages, painted in high-gloss white with blue racing stripes. The guests were ushered aboard by female attendants in Pan Am-style pillbox hats and pencil skirts; each attendant, according to regulations, had to be at least five feet five inches tall, and was trained to smile with exactly eight teeth visible. A twenty-year-old college student named Zhu Ping took her seat, then texted her roommate that she was about to “fly” home on the rails. “Even my laptop is running faster than usual,” she wrote. [continue]

Update: On January 4, 2014, China Railway president Bai Zhongren jumped to his death from a fourth-story window. Zhongren suffered from depression due to his company’s huge debt and corruption scandals. China Railway Group is the state-owned engineering giant behind China's largest railway projects and was the rail model for recent U.S. passenger rail expansion.


  1. You have won LRT or BRT is not going down residential streets. http://thegatewaycorridor.com/documents/2012/newsletters/Newsletter6-Final.pdf

  2. I respectfully disagree. Here are the details: http://ripgatewaycorridor.blogspot.com/2012/11/winning.html